I had a great weekend that started out pretty terribly.
It began in Camden Town. And there’s your first problem. No one born before the mid-eighties should ever visit Camden unless you’re on a gash acid trip or you need fuel for your fire poi (in which case, take a long, hard look at yourself).
But this tale involves the chasing of a bearded American who would never penetrate my tequila soul.
And Americans also hang out in Camden.
My wingwomen and I drunkenly mourned our twenties as we stomped through once familiar, leather clad streets.
‘Had the Hawley Arms always been shit’? I wondered as we knocked back Voddies and Slimlines. This used to be our hang out, just a two minute stumble from a Muswell night bus. The last time I’d had a drink in there, Amy Winehouse had elbowed me out the way at the bar. God rest her beautiful soul. The staff (still fit and high) iced and sliced as an early Oasis song played on repeat. LOUDLY. I did not want to ‘be here now’. ‘ D’ya know what I mean’? Give me my South London flat, Radio 6 and the Guardian Weekend. Whap the heating up to 23 and peruse the American political race on catch up, please.
Who had we become?
The bearded American was nowhere in sight. This was not my Masterplan. Worse still, there was nowhere to hang our coats. Don’t EVEN get me started on the lack of toilet roll or soap in the dispenser. And complementary hand cream? Forget it.
Nothing had changed here. Although, we ourselves had morphed in brilliant but brutal ways.
That big chair still hung on the side of a shop. Cyber Dog flashed an endless warning and PVC boots stumped out rollies in gutters.
People pretending to be people looked through each other, on loop.
Colleen and I reminisced about the two Italian guys we snogged once at a bus stop.
‘Did we get old or are we just not drunk enough’? questioned Fyles as we bobbed through Chalk Farm.
Our old haunt, the ‘Marathon Bar’ glistened before us like spikes on a platform trainer. Oh, sweet, sweet Marathon Bar. A kebab shop once containing a back room of tinnies, fags and a Britpop dance floor was now, alas, just a kebab shop. Its own Greek tragedy of burnt flesh and polystyrene.
As gentrification spread through London like a virus in Fresher’s week, Camden has been saved in a bong-induced pickle. A time warp. Were we right to keep this breathing museum of 90’s tourists and the lonely? Or should Boris have replaced it with the shaft of a wonky skyscraper? (Boris shouldn’t be erecting shafts anywhere, thanks).
The next night, I performed some artefacts of my own at Mortified, London. My ramblings of a 15 year old, in love with boys and the world. Reading aloud diary entries of lust and imagined possibilities between caverns of aligned stars.
An old school friend in the audience was tickled by the preserved version of me.
When the lights went down, my gentrified persona emerged; a reformed hippy, sobered with the absence of a kebab shop back room and a bearded American (further out of reach than Uranus).
After, we went south, to the deathly funk of New Cross Gate. My 30-something, stomping ground. The real, warts and all London.
Sometimes (as my friend later found out), what you really need is clean-shaven, British and completely in reach of Uranus.
A shame about the Green Card ‘though.